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Elegant, ecru-colored chairs, dining tables with an uncomplicated setup, abstract black and white paintings inserted in wooden posts added to a couple of floral ones, and that view – the cityscape from high above the Marco Polo Ortigas Manila tower. It is nothing of what one is accustomed to expect for a Chinese restaurant. Often, one may think of reds and golds, and Chinese characters present in the interior, but with Lung Hin, surprise in the design was simply an open window for more good surprises.
A dare to be called different
Frank Reichenbach, general manager of Marco Polo Ortigas Manila, set the bar high. With a very busy schedule, running in and out of the restaurant to individually meet and handle guests, service is nothing short of personal. The waiting staff is attentive to every hand raised, even to our requests of modeling dishes for photos.
Reichenbach took the time to sit with us and elaborate what makes Lung Hin live up to its seemingly growing hype. “What makes Lung Hin different from the other Chinese restaurants is that first of all, the location at the 44th floor is special, with the daylight, the decoration, and the design. The space is open yet you have some privacy. Secondly, I dare to say our cuisine is deeply rooted in original Cantonese. We have two Hong Kong chefs with one specially handling dim sum, and then we have a Hong Kong consultant who visits regularly and checks the food, menu, and promotions, and of course our owners are Chinese. So, I dare to say, we are the only true contemporary Cantonese restaurant here in Manila.”
Awarded as one of the most outstanding Chinese restaurants outside of China at the 16th China Hotel Industry Horse Awards, Lung Hin or “Dragon Pavilion” in its English translation, certainly piqued my interest, not to mention my appetite.
Moving to a healthy lifestyle cuisine
While serving authentic Cantonese cuisine, Lung Hin creates its dishes in its signature modern style. With a new perspective, the approach to food has been adjusted and the restaurant has since changed and improved its menu up to 70 percent.
“When you try our food, you will know,” explains Janice Chua, assistant director of restaurants, bars, and events. “For example, it’s popular for Filipinos to have sweet and sour pork. When you see the dish that we present, it is still sweet and sour pork, it’s very obvious, you could tell. However, we enhance it with modern ingredients that make up a healthy lifestyle. You can still try the traditional taste, however, the dish will be enhanced with healthy ingredients. Our chefs are very particular [on] our move in making a healthy lifestyle cuisine.”
No wonder, we were presented seven of Lung Hin’s well-loved dishes, all looking healthy and fresh. We started with the appetizer of Deep-fried Crispy Tofu with Seaweed Salad with its crunchy shredded cabbage, taro and carrot, blending really well with the texture of Japanese tofu and the little sweetness from the sesame dressing. What came in next is the Deep-fried Bean Curd Leek Rolls with XO Sauce. I expected it to be really spicy because of the sauce, but I was surprised at how light it was to the palate. As if two pieces weren’t enough, I doubled it to four, hoping the others wouldn’t notice (which they eventually did when they asked how many I got).
The Deep-fried Pork Spareribs, though, had me finally craving for rice. The meat was tender and the salty-sweet taste was present down to its core, and for a Filipino like me, having a cup of rice on the side would definitely make it more enjoyable. However, I restrained myself seeing that we had a couple more dishes to devour. We had two sets of dim sum and the Steamed Shrimp Dumplings with Gold Leaf definitely tasted golden. The curious thing was that the dish was simple yet it was an absolute burst of deliciousness in the mouth.
Don’t let me even begin with the Steamed Scallop Dumplings that were gone at a glance. Then came Lung Hin’s very own version of Baked Barbecue Pork Buns. This was one I was excited to try since I’m used to ordering it to-go in one of the new restaurants in Makati where it became locally famous (my order count be two-three times a month). The bread was soft and a little bit crumbly as it should, but I found the fillings inside not too sweet but as savory as one would like it. We capped off with Chilled Mixed Jelly and Grass Jelly, perfectly ending the diverse yet uncomplicated menu we were served.
The one dish that struck my mind is probably Lung Hin’s ultimate diner favorite – the Stir-fried Crystal Prawns. I could not believe how large the prawns were, but that’s just size. Cooked in Chef Ken’s special superior stock, the seafood was sweeter and tastier than it normally is, but true to the healthy cuisine they are promoting, no sugar was added in it. As it is contemporary Cantonese, Goji berries were added not only to enhance the overall flavor of the dish, but to add the nourishing flair to it. As Ms. Chua said, “Goji berries are good for the eyes. Nowadays, we are always looking at our phones and laptop screens, and it is essential to know that we at least take care of our eyes by what we eat.”
Lung Hin welcomes all types of diners; bankers and corporate men in suits on the weekdays treating their clients some lunch or dinner, and families who get together for meals on the weekends. The authentic Cantonese cuisine present in the restaurant encompasses a wide array of tastes and sets minds to come back for more.